The Dutch have a reputation for being very clean. Do they deserve this reputation? Oh yes, they do. They keep their homes and properties very clean. I have rarely seen a front yard not look perfect. The grass is mowed, the bushes are trimmed, the driveways and walks are swept, and the house itself is well taken care of. The inside of the houses are not only clean, but things are in their place. That does not mean that people cannot have messy rooms, but in generals terms, the Dutch like things to be “just so”. In the house across from us, there is a woman who takes such good care of her front steps, her walk way, her plants…that I am entertained by just watching her. She brings out her pail and scrub brush and her broom and I know I am ready for a show. She sweeps everywhere and then she scrubs like the queen is dropping by for tea. She even washes down the door and the wood around the door. I have never been in her house, but I can only imagine how clean it is.

To be even more dramatic, I have also noticed how clean the Utrecht red light district is. The houseboats seem to be in good shape and well taken care of. And the windows are spotless, better to see the women making eyes at you. Okay, maybe I am stretching this a little, but you do get my point. No matter what the profession or neighborhood, the Dutch are pretty clean people.

Imagine my surprise when I recently read the results of a Dutch survey about clean work environments. Eleven hundred people who work in offices were asked what irritates them the most in the area of hygiene.

#1   the smell of sweat from co workers

#2  people who don’t wash their hands after using the toilet

#3  bad breath

#4  people who make sounds while eating

#5  people who sniff and blow their noses loudly

More than half the people said they never clean their desks. Four out of ten people say that they have seen a mouse at work and one in ten have seen a cockroach.

These results raise many questions. Are these people being too picky? Are they working with pigs or people raised by wolves? Where are they working and what kind of product are they making, as I am not sure I want to buy it. It does seem like hygiene is an international concern, as I think these results would be the same in any country. I just thought the Dutch were above this kind of stuff, but it just reminds me that they are only human. I guess not everyone can be like my neighbor, but I do think that most people here are like her.

Can you relate to these results? Anything remind you of your work space? How many rodents have you seen and named?

Recommended reading: THE DARKROOM OF DAMOCLES by W. F. Hermans. This is one of the most popular books in The Netherlands. It has long been on reading lists at high schools and universities. I read this book (in English) because the libraries in The Netherlands have chosen this book to be read during the month of November. It is a novel that tells of life in The Netherlands during the second world war. But it is more like a mystery/thriller with a twist, not your typical historical fiction.

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  • inke  On November 30, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Neighbours like that always make me feel inadequate when it comes to being a proper hausfrau. And I’m not even the worlds biggest slob. My friend B. needed a charlady once, but before said lady could put a foot in the house, B. had cleaned it top to bottom so the char would not think bad of her. ha ha. I do hate it when people eat noisy and with their mouths open so you can see what they are chewing away, yuck!

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